How to Plan for the Future of Career Fairs

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When was the last time you used a rotary phone? If you’re one of our Gen Y readers, you may have never even seen one. (This is what they look like, just so you know!) If you grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, you might remember a time when cordless phones were a BIG deal. And now most of us carry our phones with us everywhere (yep, even to the bathroom), but we rarely use them to make phone calls. It’s no secret that technology moves fast—especially in the realm of communication—yet many companies are still relying on the same old modes of reaching college talent. We caught up with Nicole Dessain, Founder and Principal Consultant of talent.imperative to learn more about the future of university recruiting and consider whether career fairs are becoming a thing of the past. Nicole_Dessain_Professional Picture Tell me a little about talent.imperative. What does your company do? We are a next generation talent management consultancy. We help our clients address their most pressing talent challenges through innovative approaches and services. That could mean re-designing an organization’s Talent Acquisition function or optimizing sourcing and employer branding. We also offer “out-of-the-box” solutions for clients who may not need a full consulting project. Sometimes a few virtual consulting sessions or a “do-it-yourself” guide can be sufficient. We also provide training to college and university leaders. Our interactive workshops guide career services professionals through the creation of a plan for optimizing collaboration with employer partners. You’re currently conducting research for the Handbook of Human Resources Management. Can you tell us a little more about this project? I am very excited about Springer’s Handbook of Human Resources Management project! The handbook is a 1,200-page guidebook in Human Resource Management and based on the contributions of 50 HR thought leaders. As “HR Marketing & Recruiting” chapter editor, I am responsible for recruiting subject matter experts as sub-chapter authors, coordinating chapter content contribution, and writing an introduction threading together all sub-chapters. I am also the author for the sub-chapter “Recruiting Events.” The handbook is scheduled for publication in January 2016. You recently polled some employers about their on-campus recruiting practices. How did you go about creating and conducting this poll? This poll as referenced in a recent ERE article was meant to provide a snapshot of how organizations use career fairs for their recruiting purposes. Survey participants were primarily recruited on LinkedIn and Twitter. What were some of the most interesting/significant discoveries you made about career fairs? I was surprised that virtual career fairs and hackathons were not used that much. I was also intrigued by how companies are experimenting with social media as part of the live event experience. What do you think those discoveries mean for companies that recruit on campus? What things should they change or keep the same? I think in order for career fairs to survive they need to continue to evolve. Companies need to look outside of recruiting for best practices—for example, what can be learned from marketing in creating experiential environments. I also think the potential for utilizing hackathon-style events can not only help in attracting scarce technology talent but also become a template for how candidates’ skills can be assessed in a more reliable way than just through interviews. Finally, companies should experiment with integrating innovative event technologies (e.g. Meerkat, holographic technology, virtual environments, etc.). What do you see as the future of university recruiting? Will career fairs become a thing of the past? Wow, that’s an incredibly complex topic! I could go on all day about this… but in a nutshell, as hinted at in our talent.trends report, there are two mega-trends impacting university recruiting: one is the global skills mismatch (especially in STEM fields) and the other is the fact that the higher education system overall is in the process of being disrupted (MOOCs, apprenticeships, and “boot camps” as alternatives to a degree, etc.). I believe these trends will not only reshape the structure of higher education but also the way employers and university personnel will interact in order to place students into gainful employment in the future. Career Services and Talent Acquisition professionals who recognize this shift and start working towards a new way of collaboration will be ahead of the curve. Is there anything we haven’t covered with regards to your poll, career fairs, or college student recruiting that you’d like to mention? Having designed and managed college recruiting programs as both internal Talent Acquisition leader and as a consultant, I know how much effort and planning goes into it. In my experience there are two key things that can help elevate the value college recruiting can bring to an organization and that also help align stakeholder interests: 1) Consolidate your college recruiting efforts to a few “key universities” that were selected via a data-driven approach. This is where you should spend most of your money, time, and relationship-building. 2) Create an annual calendar for college recruiting and share with key stakeholders. This calendar leads up to full-time and intern hiring event season, but starts much earlier with business-driven demand planning. The next step: Nicole mentions the importance of choosing a few core schools using a data-driven approach. Still wondering how to accomplish this? We offer a few pointers on school selection in this post.

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